By Zach Collier
When I walked into the room, Max Metcalf and Thomas Clawson were seated in front of a whiteboard covered in diagrams, to-do lists, and statistics. On the to-do lists were marketing plans, steps for setting up the physical aspects of Goosenecks Music Festival the week of the event, and even what looked like fitness goals (“Wake up early – go running,” said one bullet point).
I felt like I was stepping into the middle of something very important. You could feel the gravity of the conversation, yet it managed to be at once intimidating and inviting. You could tell from the energy in the room that Metcalf and Clawson were both passionate and excited about what they were doing. When they saw me, they shook my hand, pulled up a chair and put their baseball caps on. Clawson was repping the Jazz and Metcalf was sporting a San Jose Sharks hat. He was happy to discuss the Stanley Cup Playoffs with me.
This impressive blend of passion and playfulness have helped them create one of the most highly anticipated music festivals of the year. Goosenecks has booked major national bands like Young the Giant, Purity Ring, and Jukebox the Ghost – huge wins for a first year festival. Find out who Max Metcalf and Thomas Clawson are, and how Goosenecks Music Festival came to be.
Alright. Where are you guys from? What are your interests and hobbies and stuff?
Max Metcalf: I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah. My interests? I love sports – a lot. The Jazz are like my life. And then just the classic Salt Lake love: hiking, seeing national parks, stuff like that. I just love Utah, I love sports, and I love music. Those are my three big, main interests.
Thomas Clawson: Yeah, we have a lot of similar interests. I love my home, the bay area. Everything about it. I love the sports over there, and then going to concerts is my favorite thing. Seeing any show, big or small. Especially Bruce Springsteen – makes me so happy. I really love entrepreneurship, innovation, starting companies. It’s really fun.
So are you guys in the BYU business program?
Max: Um… I study math. [Laughter] Yeah, a little random, but I love math as well. I do wanna go to business school after my under grad.
Thomas: I study music and take a lot more business classes than music classes. I should probably switch my major.
What program are you in?
Thomas: I’m pre music.
Right on. Do you ever just find yourself thinking, “Man, I really wish I was working on my business right now?”
Thomas: Yeah, that’s how I feel.
Max: It’s crazy. I don’t wanna do any math right now!
[Laughter] Well, tell me then. You said that you both like music. What got Goosenecks started? How did you meet, first of all, and how did you start talking about this?
Thomas: We both served missions. That’s where we met. We served in Denmark.
Max: So we met on the mission. We were never comps – just homies.
Thomas: And then my grandpa is from Kingston, Utah. A town in the middle of nowhere. And they had an old venue there that they always talked about called the Purple Haze.
The Purple Haze, eh?
Thomas: Pre drug culture.
Thomas: They always talked about the big dance parties they would have and just like how it was this cool place where the community always gathered together. And then I always had the desire to fix it – to repair that venue and to do something there. So that was kind of the inspiration for building a venue that’s not in Provo or Salt Lake. Just kind of out in the middle of nowhere. We tried to do that – go down and meet the owner. And they just weren’t very cooperative. So we went exploring for new places to build a venue, or at least have some sort of show. Then we found the big stage in Torrey – at the property. It was built, it was just old and decaying. So we found that and were like, “Whoa.”
What was it originally built for?
Max: They had concerts there in the late 90’s, early two thousands.The owner’s name is Dave. The place is called the Red River Ranch, and he hosted concerts for a couple years down there. Just like country artists to play for the local towns. They got a decent amount of people there. They pulled a couple thousand people to the shows. So he build the stage but stopped doing concerts in like, 2002, I think. And then the stage had literally just sat there since then. We ended up talking to Dave, getting everything figured out. We went down there that weekend, found it, went down the next weekend again, talked to Dave who’s the land owner, set up a deal with him that we could use it for the festival…
Thomas: Because we had the idea at this point. We didn’t have any bands booked because we needed the location first.
Max: So we got the go ahead on the location and then we started the process of fixing up the stage, which was a fun process. Anything you stood on we had to replace. [Laughter] As we were repairing, three different people fell through the stage at some point.
Max: It was crazy. Our friend Corey fell through, I fell through once, and I think my friend Hunter fell through. So it was wild. It was way fun. We fixed that up. We had a little camp out concert out there, too. Things work, the power works, it was great. Way fun.
So is it already outfitted with electronic equipment and stuff? Speakers and monitors?
Max: No. That’s all brought in.
Thomas: So we brought down the speakers for the campout concert. There’s a big production company doing the sound for the whole festival. We just have the power grid to bring everything to.
Max: We ended up getting more power so we’d have enough power.
Thomas: For an event like this, you’ve gotta have enough power.
How many times have you made the drive down to Torrey? Because that’s like, what, a four hour drive?
Max: No, it’s two to two and a half. We’ve made the drive probably fifteen, twenty times.
Thomas: Probably twenty times.
Max: When were we down there last? Last Tuesday?
Max: Yeah, we were there last Tuesday. We’re going down on Saturday.
Thomas: The average is probably once a week.
So, again, like where did the festival idea come from? You guys were companions, you both like music. There are a ton of risks with putting on a festival.
Max: Yeah, we didn’t realize that at the start, but now we do [Laughter]. It’s great though. Thomas had the idea.
Thomas: I just wanted to fix that other venue. So when the stage came upon us, it was like, “Well how could we not have a big music festival?” It’s a festival stage. I mean, it’s gigantic.
Max: It’s 40 by 40 foot.
Thomas: You feel it. And you think, “Okay, the most amazing red cliffs I’ve ever seen. A lot of acreage.
Max: The guy has 900 acres.
So of course, you can host a billion people down there.
Thomas: Yeah, and it could grow.
Max: The scaleability of it is great. It’s crazy. We’d love to keep it smaller because we think that’s a really cool vibe, but anyways.
Thomas: So that presented itself, and we were like, “Okay!” We already had the idea – fixing the Purple Haze – and then we had the place. So we were like, you need a place, you need bands, and then people will buy tickets.
Max: That was the big theory.
“If you build it, they will come.”
Thomas: Yeah! So when the place kind of presented itself to us on such a big scale, we were like, okay, we need to start booking bands. Let’s just see how it goes.
Max: And we thought huge scale, initially. When we first found it we thought, okay, we’re doing thirty thousand!
Max: ‘cuz that’s how epic this place is. And then we realized we had NO means to do a festival that big. So we downsized to eight thousand, which is where we’re at now, and booked bands through Coulter Reynolds, who is a BYU student as well.
Thomas: He had a lot of booking experience and his family is very well-connected, musically. To the music industry.
How did you meet him? I mean I know he’s a BYU student…
Max: Networking. He was actually a friend of my roommate. My friend moved out of my house, my roommate moved in, and he was really good friends with Coulter. So we first got the connection through him. And then my friend, Corey, had some weird connection to Coulter – I still don’t really know what it is. But he had that connection as well. So one day we just called him and said, “Hey, we’d really like to meet. We have an idea. We’d love to meet with you.” We took him to Emmanuel’s – the Mexican restaurant. For our first “business meeting.”
Thomas: It was so funny.
Max: And we pitched him on the idea and he loved it. He thought we really had our stuff together. At that point we’d planned out a lot of stuff. We had our budget planned, we had our land planned…
Thomas: We had a marketing plan.
Max: The dates planned. We had a lot of stuff planned out. So we put a lot of hard work into it before Coulter.
Thomas: Once he was on board, it was all systems go.
You guys have gotten some pretty big names on the bill. I mean, Jukebox the Ghost is out of DC. They played The Complex in Salt Lake last summer – I was at their show. They sold out The Complex. How did you feel when you started getting some bigger names?
Thomas: Jukebox the Ghost was actually the first major act to join us.
Max: We love Jukebox the Ghost.
Thomas: Them and The National Parks. They’re awesome. Their willingness to believe in our idea really made the whole thing possible.
Max: The first national band’s the hardest one to book because everyone is pretty skeptical of a first year festival. Once we booked them, then it started snowballing.
Thomas: Purity Ring was another big act, and then we booked Young The Giant. That was pretty much the last big name we booked.
I just think this is a really cool idea. One of the things we like to talk about at Reach Provo is that Provo attracts talent.
We’ve had a lot of people move to LA or go to New York, somewhere where it’s known to have a lot of talent, but per block I think Provo is more saturated with talent than anywhere. But the thing we talk about all the time – we talked to the mayor about this – is how can we keep the Provo music scene from being just a four year music scene?
Right? You know, you’ve got a lot of people that come here and start a band or join a band, and then they graduate and get a real job, so to speak – become a dentist or whatever – and then they pack up and move out of state.
But big festivals like this, they draw people. They give people here something to do so they don’t have to leave. What do you think your overall vision for Goosenecks is? Is this something that you want to do long term?
Thomas: True, true. We think this is the best possible way to put Utah music on the map, from a national perspective, and to showcase the talent here. In our opinion, the best bands in the state are going to play at our event. It’s a chance for people – and the appeal of the national park brings people from, like, California and Arizona, people who want to see something different – it’s a chance for people out of state to come to the festival. It brings them to Utah. I’ve never thought about that before – the concept of a four year music scene.
Max: It should give Provo musicians the opportunity to really get found, to get put on the map. If they really kill it at Goosenecks, there will be so many more opportunities. Even now, I mean we really haven’t even done a ton of marketing yet in California, but ten percent of our ticket sales come from California. So it’s gonna bring people from all over. That’s why we think the Provo music scene and the Utah music scene in general can really benefit from Goosenecks. And that’s one of our biggest visions. I love Utah. A lot. And I want everyone – the state of Utah – to benefit from this. All the vendors, all our sponsors – all of that. We want it to all be Utah companies. Because we love the state of Utah. We’ve had outreach from other companies as well, but we especially want Utah. Utah’s such a great place. We found out it’s an amazing place to start a business. They make it so easy. The environment really promotes what we’re doing, what ya’ll at Reach are doing. It’s so cool that the state has provided us with this. There’s a lot that Utah has to offer. I mean, there are five national parks, great scenery, great music, great people. We love it.
Thomas: Another big vision of Goosenecks is to promote music discovery. Everyone has a few local bands they really like, or a few big bands they really like, and a festival is such a cool environment to find new music. I remember going to Outside Lands in San Francisco – a festival – and while I loved seeing the bands I knew, the bands I enjoyed the most were the ones I wasn’t expecting to see. Like, yeah, I’m going to have my lunch right now and listen to these bands. Wow, they were great. So you can come to a festival and have this great experience and be like, who’s playing over here? It’ll be great music. That’s what’s going to be awesome.
One of my favorite experiences was seeing Jack Johnson in 2009 up in St. Helens. They set up a huge stage in the middle of nowhere, vendors everywhere, and they had three or four bands open up for him. It was an all day thing. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with Rogue Wave, but that’s how I first found them. Love them to this day.
Max: That’s what we want to have happen to each person at Goosenecks – to come home with at least one band where they say, “I never knew them, but now I love them.”
I’m sure you’re aware of Timpanogos Music Festival. I like that you guys are taking local music to a new location. Everyone in Salt Lake and Provo are kind of aware that there is music being made there, and bands tend to play up and down the I-15 corridor. But you’re allowing those artists to go elsewhere and share the music being made here with the rest of Utah – people who wouldn’t otherwise get to experience it. So my question is, how are you guys funding this? Everything from stage repairs to the website to ticketing.
Max: It started off with basic loans from our parents initially.
Max: But then we raised money from investors and friends.
Thomas: Once we had the upfront and were registered to start everything, we worked on that concert campout to see if we could host an event at the property. Once that went well, then that was a little bit of validity and helped us say yes, this is a viable product. Then investors were willing to invest.
Max: It was cool because we learned how to split a company into shares, sell shares of our company. We never knew how to do that. That’s one of the cool things about this is how much we’ve learned. It was way stressful. Way fun, but way stressful. We realized pretty soon that you can’t pay bands after a festival. You need to pay them upfront. We were like, “Oh boy. Here we go.” [Laughter] So now we’re here, running off of ticket sales.
You said that ten percent of your ticket sales are from California. What’s the overall response been? How have promotions for ticket sales been received?
Thomas: Really well! People, especially in the industry, are really excited. There’s a lot of noise that’s been generated about the festival. Ticket sales are going at a really good rate – especially for a first year event. It’s really positive.
Max: We just met with a marketing company yesterday, and they were impressed with how many tickets we’ve sold at this point. So we’re very optimistic that we’re going to sell the whole thing out.
Thomas: We’ve done a lot of social media marketing. We go on to different campuses and spread the word. Beyond that the bands have been very helpful. All the bands. National, small – you name it. They’ve been posting and sharing.
Max: Young the Giant has something like 200,000 Twitter followers. So they posted on their Twitter and on Facebook. That was really helpful.
Well I know you guys are in the middle of a planning session, so I don’t want to take up too much more of your time. But if you could tell people who currently aren’t going to Goosenecks one thing, what would you tell them?
Thomas: One thing we haven’t talked about that I think is cool is that we want Goosenecks to be an opportunity for people to do good. A lot of music festivals focus on fun – having a big party. You go to the party, have a good time, and then you leave. We believe that with a lot of people you have a lot of power and influence to do good. That’s why we’re planning on having various small service projects and things that people can participate in to better the community that we’ll be in, better the state. We think that’s really important.
Max: We feel like Millennials especially all have a desire to serve, but don’t necessarily have opportunities to serve. At Goosenecks we want to provide the opportunity to serve. We’ll have service projects big groups can do, like assembling refugee kits or making hats for Primary Children’s. We don’t know exactly what they’ll be yet, but we’re planning on having five different service projects that people – when they’re there – they can be listening to music and helping someone that they wouldn’t normally be able to help. We feel like that’s really big for Goosenecks. Everyone’s heard of music festivals. They’re big nationwide. It’s all about the party. We want to make something that is about the party, because Goosenecks is going to be the funnest party of the year for everyone that attends. But it’s about more than the party. It’s about being inspired by the national park, it’s about being inspired by the music, and it’s about helping other people. We’d love to get that message across in any way we can.
Goosenecks Music Festival is happening August 19th – August 20th at Red River Ranch in Torrey, Utah. Popular local acts include The Brocks, Foreign Figures, Festive People, The National Parks Jenn Blosil, VanLadyLove, The Aces, and many more. You can purchase tickets online here. Make sure to like Goosenecks on Facebook for more updates. You can check out some footage of the venue and get a feel for the festival’s vibe below.